About 1.5 percent of American men and women develop pancreatic cancer, and only about 5 percent survive five years after being diagnosed. Research has suggested that periodontal disease may increase people’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Researchers at New York University’s Langone Medical Center collected data from 361 patients with incident pancreatic cancer and 371 matched controls. The subjects were enrolled in the Cancer Prevention II Study and the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. The researchers controlled for other factors, such as age, race, gender, tobacco and alcohol use, body mass index, and history of diabetes, that could have increased the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
The researchers found a significant correlation between pancreatic cancer risk and the presence of the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans. They also found that the presence of Fusobacteria lowered participants’ risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
The participants were mostly white and non-Hispanic, so the researchers are not sure if their findings are applicable to other racial groups. The findings did not demonstrate a causal link between oral bacteria and pancreatic cancer, but they have helped scientists identify a new potential risk factor. They believe this information could be helpful in developing new approaches to prevent and detect pancreatic cancer.
Another study conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of San Juan, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute involved 51,000 men between the ages of 40 and 75. Researchers adjusted for age, smoking, obesity, diabetes, diet, and other factors and found that men with periodontal disease had a 63 percent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than men with healthy gums. The study did not establish a causal link.
Periodontal disease is an infection that affects the area just below the gums. It causes the tissues supporting teeth to break down. People who smoke or chew tobacco, have diabetes, take certain medications, have bridges that do not fit correctly, have defective fillings, are pregnant, or use oral contraceptives have an increased risk of developing periodontal disease. People can reduce their risk of developing gum disease by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day.